Congratulations to the winners of the Spilt Ink Competition 2014

1st- Mags Webster – Ded Reckoning  (both Mags and I can spell ‘dead’)
2nd – Mags Webster – Second Language
3rd Shey Marque – Twilight
Commended – Shey Marque – Woman in the Waters of Lethe

1st – Richard Regan – The Bush Undertaker Makes Amends
2nd - Mary Jarzabkowski (big applause!!) - A Sweater for Alex
3rd- Alison Davis – The Bus Trip


Spilt Ink Competition 2014

Categories: Poetry and Short Story
First Prize $200
Second Prize $100
Third Prize $50
Short Story
First Prize $200
Second Prize $100
Third Prize $50
Submissions deadline:
31 August 2014
Enquiries to:
                                                            For Members only!
                                     Download our entry form and guidelines in Word or .pdf

OOTA advises that our next competition (in-house) will appear in 2014 with 2 categories of 1. short story &  2. poetry.  The committee has decided to run this competition every two years to attract more entries from members. The competition will be judged by one single judge. Stay tuned!
Many thanks,
OOTA Committee


Spilt Ink 2012

Poetry Competition

First Prize $200
Second Prize $100
Third Prize $50

Winners will be announced
October 2012

Competition Judge:
Zan Ross

Submissions deadline:
31 August 2012

Enquiries to:

                               For Members only!

Download Entry Form and Guidelines here  


OOTA Spilt Ink 2011: Creative Non-fiction competition
1st Prize: Liana Christensen for Before They Fall
2nd Prize: Helena Kadmos for Fruit Box
3rd Prize: Laura Tanja King for Utopian Desire and an Earthly Paradise
Judge’s report
Creative non-fiction is sometimes thought to be a ‘new’ genre of writing, but it’s been around for a while in the form of travel writing, memoir, some feature journalism and the kind of biography in which the biographer steps into the story and inhabits that space between the objective and the subjective. Think Helen Garner, Inga Clendinnen. Go even further back and think Truman Capote with In Cold Blood. Two of my favourite examples of the genre, Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman and Hanifa Deen’s Broken Bangles, both date back to the 1990s. What’s ‘new’ about the genre now, other than the shiny new term ‘creative non-fiction’, is its popularity. Perhaps, in some measure, this has been fuelled by the reading public’s interest in true stories told with the use of fictional techniques, their interest in writers as players in the stories they tell, and a growing acceptance that boundaries between genres can be blurred and nobody will get hurt—although Kate Grenville might beg to differ there.

There were many different approaches taken by the entrants in this year’s competition. I assessed the entries according to the quality of the writing—that was the number one criterion; the effectiveness of the writer’s use of creative non-fiction techniques; and the writer’s ability to approach the subject chosen in a way that reaches beyond the personal and the self, to say something about the world, human experience, the way people live, the way they think, the way they are. After reading each piece twice, I made up a longlist, and then a shortlist, and then narrowed these down to the three prize-winners.

Thank you for inviting me to judge this award, which has given me the opportunity to read some lovely pieces of writing. I congratulate all of the entrants and acknowledge the crafting and care and courage that go into producing something to submit to a competition and then taking that leap of faith in sending off an entry. There are only three winners, but I hope all of you who have entered feel you have achieved something worthwhile in going through that process.

‘Utopian Desire and an Earthly Paradise’ is a travel piece about Mauritius. This story is one of the most conventional of all the entries in the sense of using the conventions we are accustomed to seeing in creative non-fiction: scene-setting, participation of the author in the story, provision of information about the island’s history, mythology and natural world, and reflection on wider issues such as colonisation and slavery. The writing is sensory, conveying the sights, smells and sounds of the country, and the author alternates between vista and detail, informational and personal, to tell a story with narrative pace. I congratulate the author.

Second prize: FRUIT BOX by Helena Kadmos
In ‘Fruit Box’, the author attempts to create a composite picture of her father’s early life through three fragments, three anecdotes that say as much about the times, the social world, as they do about the child who became her father. It is self-consciously speculative, acknowledging the limitations and the illuminations possible in constructing a story this way, and what I admire is the author’s restraint and subtlety in threading the pieces together and letting them, largely, speak for themselves. In the gaps, in what is not said, are wider issues—difference and belonging, cruelty and kindness, a pre-multicultural Australia that liked to forget it was and had always been a country of immigrants. This is a simply written story that has charm and poignancy, and I am pleased to award it second prize.

First prize: BEFORE THEY FALL by Liana Christensen
This profoundly moving piece tells the story of the author’s long friendship with an unnamed man whose life is affected by schizophrenia. While it is a deeply personal account, in which the author continually holds up to the light her own motivations and actions, it also transcends the personal to say something thoughtful about mental illness, how it is managed and how it is regarded socially. This is one of the hallmarks of quality creative non-fiction, that it informs us and makes us think as well as reaching us emotionally. Through the author’s use of carefully chosen incidents, anecdotes, quotes and details, we come to know a little of the author’s friend in the way we feel we come to know a fictional character. When I arrived at the last line—‘Remember him for me’—it was a given: I would never forget this man I’d never known. The use of several literary references—Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, Judith Wright and, so appropriately, the words of McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—gives the work additional layers and the sense of a pool of voices contributing to the whole.

This beautifully written story of one friend, one relationship, made me reflect on what it is to be a friend, indeed what it is to be human. I don’t think you can ask more of a piece of writing than that. I feel deeply gratified that it’s within my power to award it this well-deserved first prize.

Amanda Curtin
October 2011

* *

OOTA's 2011 SPILT INK COMPETITION  - for WA writers only!
This year OOTA's writing competition is "Creative Non-Fiction" for WA writers living in Western Australia. 
Guidelines must be strictly observed otherwise your entry will not be accepted.
Download our pdf (in landscape) entry form here or our .doc entry form (in landscape) here or simply click on image, then print.

What is Creative Non-fiction?
by Rose van Son
Creative non-fiction is the writing of a personal essay. The word non-fiction is the clue: prose that is not fictional but of an event in the writer’s life, told creatively.
Often these events are memorable, even life-changing for the writer and therefore the need to put pen to paper, to tell the story in a creative way. The power of creative non-fiction is in the telling; whether the story is life-changing or whether it is simply a moment of everyday life, the telling is important. Creative non-fiction writing frees the writer from the constraints of the formal or academic essay; the telling can be a journey, or a new way of seeing or developing an issue important to the writer.
If research is used in the creative non-fiction essay, it must be acknowledged in the essay, as in the academic essay, to avoid plagiarism. The story-telling must be smooth and can include dialogue or analysis but the reader must feel that this is the ‘telling’ of something that has happened to the writer; an event that may have changed the writer in some way or has influenced the writer sufficiently to pick up a pen. As the story unfolds, the reader may be influenced by both the story and the telling. The writer may use the first person ‘I’ to share his or her personal story with the reader. A good piece of creative non-fiction will leave the reader thinking.

Competition 2010 Results
Sarah Evans wins our Prose Spilt Ink Competition 2010  
Download story here

by Sarah Evans

A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery.
There we were, looking like the Men in Black in our sharp new suits and sharper shades, and getting ready to roll with a you-beaut new hearse and big bunches of death lilies. We were gonna be burying old Madge Button within the hour.
“Hey, man,” says my kid cousin Mario, slapping me on the back. He’s strutting his stuff, his chest puffed out like a pouter pigeon on the razz. His black pointy shoes glint in the mid-morning sun, as does his heavily gelled hair. “Are we the coolest dudes or what?”
“Or what,” says my Uncle Gino before I can answer. You know, he’s like a baby hippo on steroids. If you’re smart, you don’t mess with him. If you’re stupid, watch out. And we’re gonna be working for him, so what does that make us, eh?
Because Mario and me are rawer than steak still on the hoof.
“I don’t have a good feeling about you boys,” he tells us. “You have no respect. This funeral stuff is serious business. You better not let me down.” He swigs from his hipflask and smacks his lips. “If you do, I’ll bury you myself. No expense spared, yeah. The best concrete. Remember that.”
Mario’s eyeing the flask and says, “Have faith, Pop,” and then, “Can we have some juice too?”
The old man does a hippo snort and says, “No way. You gotta concentrate.” And he turns his back on us. Mario shrugs and gets out his own flask. We have a swift snifter and grin, poking each other in the ribs.
Picture this: Clear blue sky. Beating hot sun. So what do you reckon? It’s a good day for a burial, that’s what and Uncle Gino’s shiny black hearse is all set, with Madge Button boxed and nestled among the waxy whites.
Then Mario, who with his usually wild, curly hair stuck down so he resembles the creepy guy in Charlie’s Angles, spits on the hood and rubs the spittle with his sleeve. Don’t know what he’s eaten for breakfast but it leaves a nasty yellow smear. He rubs harder and the smear spreads something rotten.
Uncle Gino cuffs him around the head, mussing Mario’s hair, and yells, “What you do that for, boy? Clean it up and quick, yeah.”
So we drag out the hose. I turn it on full bore, but there’s a kink or something along the pipe because the water doesn’t come out until Mario jiggles it a bit and then, WHOOSH.
So we dry ourselves off and Mario re-polishes the car bonnet while the hippo jumps up and down on his little stumpies and tells us we’re gonna be late.
Mario grins at me and flexes his fingers. I know the signs well. He’s a boy racer from way back and he says, “No sweat, Pop,” and then jumps in the driver’s seat and reverses the hearse, fast.
Too fast.
The hearse wheels squeal like a brace of snared rabbits and then, BANG.
So we get out and stare at the rear end. A concrete bollard’s collapsed. The hearse bumper’s dented. The back door’s damaged. Sort of folded. A bit like a kid’s attempt at origami. And the latch is busticated big time.
Uncle Gino cuffs Mario, disturbing the gel-slick, and says, “We’ll have to use the old hearse,” and takes a swig.
So Uncle Gino and I jimmy open the damaged door, slide out Madge and rearrange the lilies while Mario smoothes down his renegade hair with one hand and polishes the bonnet with the other.
Uncle Gino turns the key in the ignition. Nothing. Nada. The old car’s as dead as Madge Button. So we shove Madge and the flowers back in the first hearse. We jiggle the latch. It still won’t catch so we spong it up with ducting tape.
The hippo’s fretting and furious and Mario pats his shoulder and says, “Don’t worry, Pop. We don’t have far to go,” and he flexes his fingers again.
Now Mario has an impressive record for hooning, and I mean police record as opposed to the Guinness Book, and he puts his foot to the floor and off we speed, like Thunderbirds are Go!
One of the joys of living in a country town is that everywhere’s close and so when you’re late, you’re not that late.
The downturn is the local ambulance. It’s run by volunteers and some regularly vie with Mario for those same hooning records.
So we approach this crossroads and Mario, the nutter, decides to play chicken – the fast food, quick death variety – and does the open throttle routine straight over the intersection.
And, just our luck, the stupid ambulance is doing the same thing. It shoots out of nowhere and smacks us mid-ships, sending us spinning crazily, like an Australia Day Catherine wheel fuelled on methane. The duct tape fails. The backdoor flies open. The coffin slides out. The lid come off and Madge Button does a few death rolls in the dirt in her pink finery.
Uncle Gino crosses himself then cuffs Mario, while I unglue my hands from the dash and move my head from side to side to make sure it’s still attached. Marble-sized knots of tension stud my neck and shoulders.
Uncle Gino’s now chugging the whisky as if a drought’s on and he yells, “How the hell did she get outta the coffin?”
Good point.
And Mario confesses, with a great deal of expressive arm waving, “I didn’t screw the lid down. Her husband rang earlier. Said he might want to say a final farewell. I didn’t want to waste time playing with screws at the graveside…”
Another good point but I can tell Uncle Gino’s not impressed. He’s carrying on like a deflating whoopee cushion.
So we get out of the hearse to rescue Madge. And the ambulance crew halloo Mario, doing high fives and boys’ stuff, before decamping their patient so they can check the ambulance for bingles.
The patient is Miss Perkins, a fluffy-haired old chook who used to run the local bakery. She’s borne out on a stretcher and put alongside Madge and the lilies. She’s wearing a frothy nightie, similar to Madge’s dress. Pink polyester must be a favourite. I don’t dig it myself.
I do a double take when she says, “Hello, dear,” to Madge. Then she says, “You’re looking better,” which totally creeps me out.
So I stare at the clouds, which have been gathering since we started playing musical hearses. They’re banked high, like white poodles’ topknots. I try to ignore Miss Perkins’ one-sided conversation with Madge. Then Miss P gets stroppy because Madge isn’t answering.
“She can’t hear you,” I tell her. “She’s dead.”
So she goes and passes out on me, which suits me fine. I’ve better things to do than pass the time with a couple of old chooks.
Uncle Gino, Mario and I collect the scattered death lilies off the road while the crew tidy up their ambulance. Out of the corner of my eye I spot Miss Perkins floating about in her candy-pink nightie by the coffin, holding one of the lilies like a baby. At least she’s recovered from her faint. And she’s singing Auld Lang Syne. Loudly.
Uncle Gino says, “I hate that song,” as he stuffs lilies in the hearse.
I shrug, indifferent. “It’s not so bad,” I say and add, “Think of all the New Year’s Eve snogging that gets done to it.”
Uncle Gino smacks me with a lily and says, “It’s got bad karma. Mark my words.”
Yeah, right.
Once we finish, Mario screws back on the coffin lid watched closely by Uncle Gino, and then we drive off. Uncle Gino’s tossing back more whisky and so we do too. He doesn’t seem to notice but grumbles about how late we’re gonna be.
Next thing we know, the ambulance is playing catch-me-if-you-can with its lights flashing and sirens hollering.
Mario grins and says, “So they want to pass, do they? Hah, we’ll see about that.”
But Uncle Gino clips him on the back of the head and says, “Don’t even think about it.”
And Mario hits the steering wheel with his hand and says, “But we’re late, Pop.”
Uncle Gino burps and says, “Okay. Hit it, yeah.”
I bury my fingers deep into the dash for a second time and try and act cool as Mario yells, “Eat my dust, suckers!” and floors it.
We streak ahead of the ambulance and get to the cemetery as lightning strobes the rows of headstones and marble angels. The sky’s turned the colour of old galvanised tin, which doesn’t bode well for a burial.
The Button family pallbearers are impatiently waiting at the entrance and the six of us half-jog, half-walk the coffin to the graveside.
The deceased’s husband is hovering by the hole, one rheumy eye on the sky, the other on the grave. For all I know it’s his habitual expression. He doesn’t look happy. But then it is his wife’s funeral, so I give him the benefit of the doubt.
And then he fixes us with one of his eyes and says, “You’re late. Madge’s never been late in her life.”
And Mario replies, “Well, since moving on she’s picked up bad habits,” and Uncle Gino cuffs him and the gel finally gives up.
Old man Button frowns at him and says, “Maybe I should see her one more time.”
And Uncle Gino says, “Maybe you shouldn’t, yeah, because we’re late.”
A cold wind blows across the cemetery, shivering the crispy leaves of summer-stressed gums and rearranging posies of dusty plastic flowers on long-forgotten graves. The chill factor’s strong for both the funeral party and the weather. And now I don’t think it’s such a good day for a burial.
The priest clears his throat and rote-drones the order of service over the sound of ambulance sirens.
Mario grins at me and gives the thumbs up. At least he’s enjoying himself. Glad someone is.
As we lower the coffin, there’s the indistinct sound of singing.
As one, Mario and I lean forward and listen hard.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot…”
We lock eyes. Mario’s are rounder than Ferris wheels.
“And never brought to mind…”
My heart begins to race. I think I’m having a panic attack, or I’ve drunk too much of Mario’s homebrew.
And then I hear Mr Button say, “Oi. I didn’t order that soundtrack.” And one of his eyes spins dangerously. “Madge hates that song,” he says.
And Uncle Gino says, “So do I. More than you’d ever know.” He glares at us. “It’s got BAD karma.”
The priest stops mid-drone and says, “What song?”
And then the singing’s replaced with a faint knocking.
And we steel ourselves, peering into the grave once again.
There’s a muffled, “Yoo-hoo! Anyone there? Hello?”
Uncle Gino says, “HELLO?” and his disbelief is palpable. His eyes roll back so far he can see his tonsils. He’s gonna faint and fall on top of the coffin and so I grab him. His eyes refocus. “You boys’ll be the death of me,” he says.
And then the priest says, “What? Has someone else died?” and he sounds totally fed up.
And then the siren-blaring ambulance careens through the headstones and parks skew-whiff by a condor-winged angel. The crew races towards us, wild-eyed, arms frantically flailing.
Mr Button’s loudly complaining, “Why’s everyone so late? There’s no respect anymore.”
And then the sky turns black, the wind roars, thunder claps and suddenly we’re pelted with huge hailstones the size of golf-balls.
Above the din, Uncle Gino shouts, “It’s a sign! We should stop the service.”
I hunch into my jacket and Mr Button looks skywards, this time with both eyes, and gets hit smack on the nose by a large lump of ice. Blood wells up and flows down his face, over his shirt, on to his suit. The priest crosses himself and bows his head only to be cracked on the back of his neck. He falls to his knees with the force. Rain and hail drench us.
Uncle Gino hollers, “That’s it. Everyone back to the cars and we’ll sit out the storm.” He ushers the burial party towards the carpark before they can object.
And then Mario’s punching me on the arm and saying, “Quick. Now’s our chance.” With the ambulance boys, we haul the singing coffin out of the grave and leg it to the ambulance.
Hail and rain hammer down as we unscrew the coffin lid, all of us steaming from the rain and sweating stress in bucket-loads.
The singing stops as the lid comes off and there’s Miss Perkins, blinking in the sudden light, a sweet smile on her blue lips and she says, “Hello? Is it morning?”
I gawp but one of the crew says, “Yes, and you got in the wrong bed so let’s swap you over before anyone finds out.”
And she says, “Oh but it’s so comfortable. I love the satin sheets.”
And Mario says, “So we’ll find you some more. No problem. But now it’s Madge’s turn.”
Miss Perkins sweet expression turns nasty and she says, “Madge? Huh. She gets all the luck!”
Mario deadpans and says, “Not this time, lovey. Her luck’s finally run out.”
We swap the chooks and get the coffin back in the grave before anyone notices.
The ambulance boys go off and patch up the bleeding widower and treat the priest for concussion and Mario says, “That was a close one,” and we empty his flask.
The rain stops and Uncle Gino sloshes through the puddles towards us and says, “I’m gonna get my concrete mixer going as soon as we get home.”
I can feel my legs turn liquid. I thought he’d been joking about the concrete burial. Mario blanches and says, “Aw, Pop, it was all an accident.”
Uncle Gino gives an evil hippo grin and says, “So? But we still gotta make a new bollard, yeah,” and cuffs the kid.
And then a funny thing happens on the way to the funeral parlour. There we are, driving along in companionable silence when the first reedy strains of Auld Lang Syne filter through from the back of the hearse…

Judge’s Report
Out of the Asylum Writer’s Group
Spilt Ink Short Story Competition

I would like to thank Josephine Clarke for inviting me on behalf of OOTA to judge the 2010 Spilt Ink Short Story Competition. I am honoured by the confidence and trust implicit in such an invitation.
I am pleased to report that the great majority of the stories entered in the competition were competently written. Most were tightly focused and expounded a single occurrence or followed a central line of events. Most had believable characters, interesting plots, and satisfying climaxes. Most had consistent style, tone and point-of-view. I commend the entrants for the quality of their stories.
The overall competence of the entries made judging the competition difficult. A judge’s work is always made easier when a number of the entries are poor. These entries can be spotted easily and quickly ruled out of the running. There is nothing subjective about this. Poor stories identify themselves because they fail to meet objective literary standards relating to characterisation, plot development, point-of-view, balance, restraint, consistency, originality and plausibility.
Subjective judgment comes more into play when entries are good. When a dozen or more stories each objectively display a basic competence in syntax and style, a basic restraint in language and tone, a basic consistency in point-of-view and characterisation, a basic plausibility in action and serendipity, a basic originality in plot and subject, and a basic avoidance of cliché and crassness—when a dozen or more stories each realise these objective standards of literary excellence, it becomes difficult to choose between them. It is true that there can be degrees of excellence in literary works, and that those degrees can be discerned. But it is also true that it is much harder to differentiate between two good stories than it is to differentiate between a good and a bad one.
Nonetheless, I sifted through the many good stories to find, in my judgment, the better and best ones as follows:
First Prize
I have awarded first prize to Sarah Evans for “Burying the Button”.
“Burying the Button” is a delightful, whacky, humorous story told from the point of view of a young man who, with his cousin, assists his Uncle Gino in the running of a funeral company. Sarah has shown herself to be a virtuoso of characterisation, colloquial dialogue, descriptive details, pacing, plot twists and figures of speech. Her style is uniformly light and laugh-inducing. Her similes, for example, are not only descriptively plausible, but are also consistent with (and add to) the humours tone and action. Consider just a few examples:
• He’s strutting his stuff, his chest puffed out like a pouter pigeon on the razz.
• The hearse wheels squeal like a brace of snared rabbits and then, BANG.
• The hearse bumper’s dented. The back door’s damaged. Sort of folded. A bit like a kid’s attempt at origami.
• … Uncle Gino’s not impressed. He’s carrying on like a deflating whoopee cushion.
• I stare at the clouds … They’re banked high, like white poodles’ topknots.
Sarah Evans can be justly proud of her story “Burying the Button”. It is truly worthy of first prize in this year’s Spilt Ink Short Story Competition.

Second Prize
I have awarded Second Prize to Carol Millner for “The Fairytale Cut”.
“The Fairytale Cut” is a beautifully told fairytale. The prose is sparse, precise and simple. The story has a lovely lucidity in all its parts, and yet in sum it is strangely mysterious. 

Third Prize
I have awarded Third Prize to Leanne Searle for “The Trouble with Bali”.
“The Trouble with Bali” is a realistic story told from the point-of-view of a young woman who is struggling in her relationship with her fiancé. The story builds towards a resolution that is plausibly but heartbreakingly reversed in the final paragraph. It deserves to be among the award winning entries.

Highly Commended
I have chosen “Waiting” by Mardi May for highly commendation.
And I have chosen “The Two-Week Doll” by Liana Christensen for commendation.

To conclude: I congratulate the writers of the winning and commended entries. To those writers who missed out this time, please accept my commiserations—and my best wishes for next time!

And again, my thanks to Josephine Clarke and to Out of the Asylum Writers’ Group for entrusting me with the task of judging the Spilt Ink Short Story Competition. My thanks, too, to Flora Smith for her administrative assistance. Long live OOTA and Spilt Ink!

Andrew Lansdown
24 September 2010


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